Blue Bell to start test production at Alabama ice cream plant


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(CNN) — Blue Bell Creameries said Wednesday that it plans to begin test production of ice cream at its Alabama plant in Sylacauga in the next few weeks.

The company was forced to recall its entire product line in April because of potential listeria contamination. Three people died and seven others fell ill, health officials have said.

The company shut down all four of its plants for cleaning and improvements, and that process is taking longer than expected.

Experts say that listeria is tough to get rid of and can live on surfaces such as drains and pipes for years.

“When production resumes at the Sylacauga plant, it will be on a limited basis as the company seeks to confirm that new procedures, facility enhancements and employee training have been effective. Ice cream produced will be closely monitored and tested. Upon completion of this trial period, Blue Bell will begin building inventory to return to the market,” Blue Bell said in a statement.

It did not say exactly when test production would begin, not did it say when ice cream sales would resume.

The company is the fourth largest ice cream maker behind Nestle (maker of Dreyer’s and Edy’s) and Unilever (maker of Breyers and Ben & Jerry’s) and Wells Enterprises, which makes Blue Bunny.

Blue Bell is privately held and has been run by the same family for 108 years.

CNN’s Katie Lobosco and Penelope Patsuris contributed to this report.

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